We were proud to host the YMCA Mental Health Champions conversation with the Duke of Sussex this month at YMCA South Ealing, chaired by YMCA St Paul’s Group trustee, Gerald Chifamba. The YMCA Mental Health Champions programme aims to improve the mental health of young people aged 11-21 and offers three key services: a peer support programme in schools and the community; key adult education and awareness workshops; and a counselling service.
Jacob Bayliss (pictured above), 28, is the Engagement & Participation Coordinator for the Right Here project at YMCA Downslink Group. He works very closely with the NHS, Healthwatch and schools in delivering peer-to-peer mental health education and awareness sessions.
“It was fantastic to meet the Duke of Sussex, as we support around 15,000 young people across our services in the county of Sussex. It was nice to see that he was on the same page as us around a lot of the issues young people face, like social media, accessing services, and how important it is to have early intervention,” says Jacob.
“The Duke echoed a lot of our views and values at YMCA, and shared his thoughts on how important it is for young people to create their own solutions. We talked about the success of the #IAMWHOLE campaign, and how this was youth-led having grown from a local group of young people at YMCA Right Here.
Mental health champions conversation
“I was pleased to have a conversation with the Duke about the impactfulness of peer to peer models, and how YMCA’s Mental Health Champions reflect this. A vital part of reaching & engaging with young people is for them to see others like them overcoming challenges, succeeding and thriving.”
Ella Sowton (pictured above), 28, is the Inclusive Youth Projects Worker for YMCA East Surrey’s mental health and wellbeing project, called WAVES.
“It’s important to get young people involved in the conversation about mental health and for them to be part of mental health project(s). I would like to hopefully be a voice for young people and spread the message far and wide, so people can learn of the great work YMCA’s do. I would like to see our work spread even bigger & better!”
Sophia Zahra (pictured above), 22, is a support worker for YMCA Swansea’s Young Carers project. She was a young carer for her terminally ill mother and grandmother. Losing both these family members led her to fail her exams, be unable to find work, facing homelessness, whilst struggling with an array of mental health difficulties.
“It was privilege to have the chance to discuss young people’s mental health with the Duke of Sussex. It was humbling yet encouraging to see and be a part of the effort going into changing the future of mental health for young people, from both organisations and individuals. I hope that the energy and passion from that meeting can be channeled in the upcoming months and years to drive for the change that needs happen.”